What You Need to Know When Hiring an Electrician

Electrician

by Marcus Pickett

There are seemingly endless reasons to hire an electrician: when lighting fixtures stop working, when installing a new major appliance, when your wall feels warm or smokes when you use electrical devices, while remodeling your basement, among many others. Despite these numerous and various circumstances, the process of hiring an electrician is remarkably the same. From preparing for the cost to choosing among potential contractors, here's what you need to know about hiring an electrician.

The Average Cost of Electrical Wiring, Repairs, and Installation

If you thought hiring an electrician was expensive last time around, you should probably dig in and prepare for some level of sticker shock. While electrical services are more in demand than ever, the overhead costs for electricians have risen at the same time. Despite deflationary pressures from the economy, the cost of copper remains high. Last year, ServiceMagic-preferred plumber Clarence Williams said the cost of copper doubled for his company, noting that "the junkyard is paying more for raw copper now than I was paying a year ago for copper for my wiring." Here are the average costs of electrical service as reported by homeowners who recently completed a project:

Cost-Cutting Strategies

  • Bundle projects together. Take a look around the house yourself, and ask the electrician before he or she leaves. You might be surprised by just how many electrical services your home needs.
  • Make sure your electrical system and fixtures are doing their part. Nearly cliche advice at this point, don't be the last person in your neighborhood to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Don't assume the lowest hourly rate means lower overall costs. An experienced electrician might charge $75/hour but complete the work in half the time as the electrician charging $50/hour.
  • Ask about travel charges. Some electricians charge a flat rate for travel, others charge more per hour to cover these expenses. The size of your project can determine how the total charges shake out and ultimately which electrician is right for the job.
  • Read more about cost-cutting strategies on this Electrician's To-Do List

When to Hire an Electrician

If you have any issue with your electrical wiring, outlets, or appliances, don't hesitate to call and hire an electrician to address the issue. In the United States, 6,000 people die, 100,000 people are injured, and billions of dollars of property damage are caused by fire each year mostly residential fires. An additional 400 deaths and 4,000 injuries are caused each year by electrocution and electrical hazards.

How to Choose an Electrical Contractor

You don't want to hire any home improvement contractor who doesn't have the proper licensing and certification, but electrical work raises the bar on this mandate. Electrical work is complicated, nuanced, and potentially deadly. Don't try to install your own ceiling fan. Don't hire a handyman who isn't a trained electrician. Otherwise, hiring an electrician isn't remarkably different than other home improvement contractors. Get at least three estimates, talk to recent customer referrals, and ask as many questions as you can about the project.

-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.